Working from home is quite a challenge, and those who are not used to it may find themselves lost. It’s much easier to procrastinate, making constant visits to the fridge, and lose the mental focus you can achieve in a workplace (or more accurately, when you leave your home environment).
Since I spent most of my years as a freelancer or self-employed I thought I’d share a few useful tips which helped me throughout the years to stay productive and spend my time as efficiently as possible. Fortunately, there are more remote-work tools available today than existed a few years ago, and they’re way more user-friendly. There’s no reason to be inefficient during this time, even more so than you would be in the office.
1. Keep a Morning Routine
This may be the most important advice I can give in order maintain your work habits. Wake up at the same time you usually wake up to go to work and don’t let yourselves off the hook just because you don’t need to waste time commuting. Use that extra time for other activities, such as planning your kids’ schedule for the day.
I used to work from home when we had our first-born. It meant that not only did I have a few-months-old baby at home to take care of, it was also the first time I had a few-months-old baby to take care of. Baby Emily (her online nickname, she’s 13 today) was with me at home until she was about 3 years old.
Play with your children. Read to them. Prepare their meals.
I’m going to write an awful thing that everyone’s doing anyway — Do you have TV sets and tablets? Use them. Don’t let your children watch horrible stupid videos, there’s enough quality content they can enjoy and learn from.
In addition, there are services by the Ministry of Education which can provide educational content.
2. Dress for Work
This is a direct follow-up to the previous tip. Don’t stay in your pyjamas or underwear. Wear the same clothes you wear to work (for a lot of us it’s a pair of jeans and a T-shirt or a dress anyway. If you’re usually wearing a suit and tie give the jacket and tie a miss and keep the buttoned-down shirt and a matching pair or trousers/skirt).
You’ll feel a massive difference by dressing for work, even if you’re working from your own living room.
3. Create a Distinct Working Environment
You don’t have to buy anything special or rearrange your entire house. All you have to do is to clearly define to yourself and the rest of your household an area which will function as your work environment. Your Livingroom / Kitchen / Dining table would do just fine. Other than your laptop, make sure you have everything you need to work around you. If you can get an object or a piece of decoration to connect you to your office work environment — even better. For example, I always have a book I put on my desk (The War Of Art by Steven Pressfiled), so I make sure to take it with me whenever I feel I might not be able to work from the office.
4. Touch-in with Your Colleagues in the Morning
It’s something I didn’t have to do as a freelancer, but since I started working in a team, it is something I made a habit of, even when I’m working from home. I bet you have social groups on Whatsapp, Slack, Hangouts, Teams or other communication tools. Use them to keep in touch, like wishing your colleagues a good morning or asking how their evening was. Make sure to make this a habit whenever you’re taking a break to keep the togetherness feeling alive and cheer each other up. There’s going to be a lack of human touch in the near future and if you’re not used to the solitude it’s probably going to be the hardest thing to deal with.
On the other hand, keep it balanced. Don’t get pulled into social chit-chat unnecessarily and start sending dozens of messages, funny jokes and memes. It is still a working environment, so allow yourself and your colleague to remain focused.
5. Keep a Colleague on a Voice Call
It’s something one of my favourite people in the world (which is also one of the best artists working today) and I used to do when we were both freelancers. Turn on a video/voice call and work. You don’t have to talk the entire time. In fact, you can sit for hours and not say a word, but there’s a certain solace in knowing there’s someone out there that you can have a laugh with, with the same ease as if you were seating across from them in the office (two meters apart to avoid infections, though). If it’s someone in your team it also makes it easier to approach them if you have a question or need to consult them about anything, as you’re already on a call. There’s no need to start sending messages and check if it’s ok to schedule a call.
6. Take Regular Breaks
While you’re home the temptation to just get up and walk around, grab a snack or simply procrastinate is harder to resist. Moreover, if you have kids these breaks are necessary to make sure they’re still alive and well. Instead of letting the world decide when and how you take your breaks — do it yourself. Set a time to when you want to go stretch your legs, make a cup of coffee, etc. Following the previous tip, try to coordinate your breaks so that while you’re making your next cup of coffee, you can talk about anything not directly related to work. This will help you keep your routine.
One way to schedule breaks is to use the Pomodoro Technique.
What is the Pomodoro Technique? Work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break. After 4 rounds take a longer, 30-minute break.
These are the most critical things you can do to successfully work from home. There are many more tips on how to keep being efficient, like how to prioritise tasks, and you can find them here in my blog.
What do you do to maintain your normal work routine and be efficient while at home?
Additional resources to check out:
Written by: Ziv Kitaro, translated by Danielle Marie Bennun